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Elections 2014: Hail-hit Cong-NCP campaign to end dry spell with Thane rally

After cancelling two public meetings in succession, the alliance’s maiden rally in the state, to be held on March 23, is expected be a low-key affair

The election substructure in the state of allies, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), had been in the doldrums, courtesy inclement weather in the form of unseasonable rains and hailstorms since the fag end of February.

CM Prithviraj Chavan with Deputy CM Ajit Pawar
CM Prithviraj Chavan with Deputy CM Ajit Pawar

With time running out, the coalition is finally trying to get its act together by way of a rally in Thane on March 23, after two previous public meetings had to be aborted on account of nature’s fury.

However, according to leaders from the alliance, the convention is going to be a low-key affair, and will be attended by state unit chiefs and ministers from both parties.

Congress-NCP was supposed to kick-start its campaign on March 10 at Beed, where Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, and other senior leaders were to launch proceedings. But, heavy hailstorm put paid to the plans. Another joint rally planned in Nashik for March 15 was also cancelled for similar reasons.

Further efforts to hold joint rallies went haywire due to the state government’s failure to announce an immediate relief package for affected farmers. Now that the state has announced a R4,000-crore package, both the parties can go ahead with the campaign, said a senior leader from the Congress.

The Thane rally, to be held at Central Maidan, will be attended by Manikrao Thakre and Bhaskar Jadhav, the state unit chiefs of Congress and NCP respectively. Apart from them, ministers Ganesh Naik and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, NCP’s state unit working president Jitendra Awhad, AICC secretary and co-in-charge of the state, Shyoraj Jivan Valmiki, will also be present. Even as Congress and NCP are contesting two each of the four Lok Sabha seats from Thane district, the rally is for NCP’s Dr Sanjeev Naik, who is in the fray from Thane constituency.

Core group to oversee proceedings
For effective coordination between the alliance partners, a core group comprising CM Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, state unit chiefs of both the parties, and ministers Narayan Rane, Harshwardhan Patil, R R Patil and Jayant Patil has been formed. The group will ensure smooth campaigning, and keep an eye out for any anti-party activities, dissidence, etc, sources said.

Opposition campaigning shipshape
Meanwhile, even as the Congress-NCP campaign is yet to take off in a big way, the grand alliance comprising BJP, Shiv Sena, RPI, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha has had at least five joint rallies in different parts of the state.

>> A joint convention was planned for March 10 at Beed
>> Another one was expected to take place on March 15 in Nashik
>> Both had to be called off because of bad weather

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